Avoid lopsided conversations 

I’m continually befuddled and frustrated by one-sided conversations. 

  • I recently sat next to a person on a three-hour flight. I asked him about his career and family and he responded in detail. He never asked about mine.
  • Mary and I had dinner with another couple. We initiated conversation about their world; they never asked about ours.

It seems to me that the focus of casual conversations should normally be evenly divided among participants. If there are four people present, each one should have about 25% of the focus. Granted, if I had dinner with a famous person whom I admire, I might want the conversation to revolve around her; but otherwise, conversations should be distributed.  

If you’re the victim of a lopsided conversation, take the initiative to direct the conversation. For instance, when in the midst of a one-sided-leaning conversation, sometimes I’ll pursue balance by answering the same questions I’ve asked. If I ask someone “tell me about your children,” I’ll then volunteer information about mine, even if it’s not requested. But it’s sad that I must do this.  

If you’re the perpetuator of lopsided conversations, think about what’s driving the inequality and address the fundamental problem; it’s probably one of the “self” words: self-centeredness, self-reverence, selfishness. The solution to this social and relational faux pas is found is Philippians 2: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” We should focus on others instead of ourselves.

We may be so self-absorbed that we truly aren’t interested in others, and that’s why we talk about ourselves exclusively. In which case we must discipline ourselves to behave right (ask about others) so that eventually our behavior will help us think right, that is, we’ll truly want to be interested in other people’s lives and want to prefer them. Every person has a story worth telling that we can benefit from hearing.

Let’s balance our conversations.

[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]

4 Replies to “Avoid lopsided conversations ”

  1. I suspect that the people who initiate conversations tend to be more confident and self assured. They are used to taking control of a situation and may be able to understand many different lifestyles and attitudes. Those who lead very limited lives often can’t imagine that someone else might have a more interesting or lively story. Someone who is not interested in hearing your story may even disapprove of a lifestyle that varies from their own.

    Those, who you engage in conversation, may be so flattered and amazed that you are interested in their life that they just can’t stop once started. If your photo does you justice, I am sure that such an open and joyful face never glazes over with boredom or glowers with irritation. Thus, your talker doesn’t get the clues that it is time to stop!

    1. Angela, once again, you add interesting thoughts to our conversation. You should be a psychologist. Truly, your insight is so helpful. Take care, Don

  2. Enjoyed your topic since it often happens. I tend to shut down, but your suggestion of volunteering the info about me to the same question I posed is great.
    If you and Mary ever want a day trip or overnight, we would love to have you come out to the Richland Chambers Lake to see us. We are about an hour south off I45. Corsicana is a neat historic town and has a great Civil War Museum (nationally known they say) if that should interest you.

    1. Janie, it’s so good to hear from you. I have fond memories of you and Mike. Thanks for the kind invitation. I’ll visit with Mary about that.
      Thanks, Don

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